In this series about Christmas cookies, I am introducing four of the most popular and easiest cookies using the recipes I learned from my grandmother. These cookies are a great family team project, including children.
The Christmas Markets of Prague
During the Advent holidays, the smell of vanilla is everywhere.
It is added to mulled wine served at Christmas markets all across Europe. Every year, Prague’s Christmas market tops the list of the best travel destinations for Christmas markets. Christmas markets are full of items prepared specially for the holidays: Christmas ornaments, wooden toys, puppets and dolls dressed in traditional costumes, handmade winter clothes, antique embroidered lace, and gingerbread. Mulled and honey wines are a Christmas market tradition and come with a free, beautifully decorated cup. There are also many traditional Czech meals served that do not have English translations, but I can assure you that they all taste delicious. Some places also host displays of historical nativity scenes. The air is filled with a special burning incense mixture of spices, herbs, and resin called purpura.
This year Advent began on November 27 and ends on December 24, but the markets remain open till January 6. This is the day of Epiphany, Jesus’ baptism, also known as Three Kings Day, which marks the final celebratory day of the Christian holiday season. Learn more about Advent, pagan, and Christmas traditions here.
Vanilla sugar can be purchased in specialty stores or online and can come in 8 gram packets or in larger jars. When I was growing up, we had to make our own vanilla sugar. It is easy and fun to make by placing a vanilla bean inside a container with powdered sugar and closing the container tightly. In about three days, the sugar will be beautifully scented and ready to use.
Vanilla, can be traced back to Pre-Columbian times in Central America, and is highly valued for its sweet flavor and scent and is used in the preparation of desserts and perfumes. The name comes from the Spanish word vainilla, meaning “little pod.” Vanilla is a member of a group of tropical climbing orchids, and the expensive flavoring is extracted from their pods in a curing process similar to chocolate making. There are three types of vanilla, all derived from a single species native to Mexico.
Tahitian vanilla is grown in French Polynesia. It is the thickest and darkest of the three types and intensely aromatic but has very little flavor. It is mostly used in the perfume industry.
Mexican vanilla is thick, with a smooth, rich flavor, but produced in much lower quantities, so it is rare and often diluted and mixed with an extract of the tonka bean. Tonka bean extract smells and tastes like vanilla but contains coumarin and has been banned in the United States by the FDA.
Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla comes from several Indian Ocean islands, formerly called the Île Bourbon. These are the thinnest of the three types of beans and are quite rich in flavor. It is prized by pastry chefs and is popular in baking. There is also “commercially synthesized imitation vanilla,” so read the labels carefully.
In old medicinal literature, vanilla is described as an aphrodisiac, and it has been scientifically proven that vanilla increases levels of catecholamines, including epinephrine, more commonly known as adrenaline.
Vanilla Crescent Cookies
- 210 g flour "00"
- 20 g confectioner's sugar
- 20 g ground walnuts
- 110 g butter European-style butter produces the best results
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 cups confectioner's sugar for the coating
- 1 cup vanilla sugar for the coating
- In my household, we usually make all of the cookie dough in one day and refrigerate them until we are ready to make cookies.
- Mix all ingredients into a dough, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest in the refrigerator for about one hour. If the butter gets too soft after a while, place it back in the refrigerator to chill again.
- Bake at 350F until golden, about 15 minutes.
- Roll the vanilla crescents in the mixture of confectioner's sugar and vanilla sugar while they are still hot.
- Store the cookies in a tightly sealed box in a cool, dark place and let them soften up until Christmas. Share with your friends!
Community Services Librarian
Kansas City, Kansas Public Library
625 Minnesota Ave.
Kansas City, KS 66101
913-295-8250 ext 1103
The world encyclopedia of Christmas by Gerald Bowler
Call Number: 394.2663 BOWLER
The 12 days of Christmas cookbook by Rebecca Currington
Call Number: 641.5686 CURRINGT
Format: Sheet music
Call Number: 782.2817 ONE
5 Christmas plays for children by Abingdon Press.
Call Number: 812.608 FIVE
Publication Date: 2000